Eight tips for talking about money with your partner

April 14, 2021

We explore the important things to consider when discussing money with your partner – particularly when it’s an uncomfortable topic.

Whether you’re married, engaged, starting out, getting serious, experiencing financial stress, or doing well – money is a topic that couples need to discuss.

Here are our top tips to think about when talking about money with your partner:

1. Understand your own, and your partner’s personal relationship with money

We all have our own perspectives on money and how it should be used.

Showing interest and discussing your views about money can provide insight into the way you or your partner relates to money. It also allows you to compare your views so you can identify similarities, differences, and areas that need to be clarified or negotiated before you make financial decisions.

Remember different isn’t necessarily wrong, so be respectful and understanding of your partner’s view of handling money.

Here are some questions you could use: 

  • How is money valued in your family/culture?
  • How open are you/your family to talk about money?
  • Are expectations in your family different for men and women around money – how?
  • Who handled the money and bills when you were growing up?
  • Do you see money as good, bad, or just necessary?
  • Did your parents treat you and your siblings the same, where money was involved?
  • What has influenced your view of money the most?
  • Should money be saved or spent?
  • What would you consider to be a luxury item?
  • What are your thoughts on debt?
2. Introduce the subject subtly and slowly

Start small as it is common to feel uncomfortable talking about money, particularly if it’s personal and direct.

Sharing a money goal you’re working on could be a natural way to start the conversation.

An example could be:

1
Saving for a holiday
2
Starting a new job
3
Working on paying off a debt

Sharing these goals can remove some of the discomforts about the subject and it also invites your partner to share their own goals.

Over time, the subject of money will begin to flow more easily. Then you’ll be able to have more focused conversations with increased confidence.

3. Set the scene appropriately

If you need to have a challenging conversation about money, thinking about where and when is important.

When thinking about location, you should try to be somewhere that is easy to talk openly.

It needs to be a safe space for both parties that is:

Comfortable written in red circle
Away from others hearing in red circle
Free from interruptions in red circle

This could be at home while the kids are asleep, or out in a public area to generate a relaxed/calm feel.

It can be hard to know when the best time is to have a conversation about money.

If it’s been a stressful day or people are exhausted, it might be a good idea to wait until the household is rested, children are settled, and the mood is good.

4. Think about your language

There is power in language – including words and how they are used, tone, body language, and facial expressions.

To have an open conversation, it needs to be non-confrontational. Using direct sentences like ‘we need to talk’ can heighten feelings of uncertainty and worry.

Try using ‘what if’ and ‘we’ instead of language like ‘you should’ and ‘you always’.

Honesty is key, and acknowledging that the topic is difficult can help.

5. Agree to disagree

We all value money differently. Having an open mind and accepting each other’s differences is the key to having constructive conversations.

Emotions are powerful and can become intensified fast. Before you know it, you are talking over each other in an effort to be heard, and no one is listening.

Take baby steps and come back to disagreed points another time when emotions settle down.

If you can talk about your values and differences without emotions being heightened, you’ll be able to have more constructive conversations about money. 

It will also increase the level of confidence for you both. to have future money conversations.

6. Value each other’s contribution to the relationship

One person may contribute more financially while the other contributes more time doing household tasks.

In a healthy relationship, all these contributions are valued. The goal is to get on the same page and come to an agreement, not be better, hold power or push a personal agenda.

Make sure you both value each other’s contribution because in the end, teamwork makes the dream work.

If you both value your different roles, you’ll be able to make decisions about money together.

7. Establish a financial plan and hold each other accountable

Having a financial plan in place creates a support system, as well as mutual respect that can strengthen relationships. 

It is easy to overspend or be carefree with money in a relationship, especially if there is no budget, shared financial goal, or plan in place.

Your plan could include:

Roles
Who’s responsible for paying what
Assigning
Allocating money for bills and leisure
Emergencies
An emergency plan for the unexpected
Goals
Financial goals like getting a better credit score

Holding each other accountable keeps you focused on your financial future together.

8. Celebrate the small things

Money can be stressful and challenging. It’s important to also celebrate the wins when they happen.

Whether that’s your credit score improving, paying a challenging bill, going on holiday, or getting a job – don’t forget even the small things are important and are always worth celebrating.

Financial conversations are just as important as any other relationship conversation, and the sooner they happen, the more successful things are likely to be. 

Click here for more information about money and relationships 

Beryl Brogden
Beryl Brogden

Economic Harm Project Advisor, Good Shepherd NZ

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